Vikings show confidence in Patterson

Cordarrelle Patterson's practice execution didn't warrant a "trick" play being called for him, but Bill Musgrave went ahead with the decision. It didn't go according to plan, but Patterson improvised and picked up a first down. Plus, Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford will be reunited in the starting lineup.

Whether it is special teams coach Mike Priefer or offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, Vikings coaches are relying on rookie Cordarrelle Patterson even when there is reason to doubt.

Patterson's value as a kick return has been obvious since the start of the season. In his second game, he returned a kick 105 yards for a touchdown. Against the Green Bay Packers, he set the NFL record with a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Since then, however, it's been harder to find teams willing to kick it to him. Even then, he is helping the team with field position by simply being on the field.

Last Sunday, four other Vikings returned five short kickoffs from the Philadelphia Eagles while Patterson was back deep waiting for an opportunity that never came.

"It's a huge win for us. Absolutely. We had great field position all night," Priefer said. "The worst field position after a kickoff return was the 25 and the best was the 46."

The Vikings started at the 25-, 25-, 38-, 34- and 46-yard lines on the Eagles' five kicks that weren't onside. The average starting position in the NFL following a kickoff is the 22-yard line, but Patterson continues to lead the league with a 33.3-yard average on 36 returns and the Vikings lead the league with an average starting position of the 26.8-yard line following a kickoff.

He also fielded a punt for a fair catch and could be used in that role, Priefer said, especially at the end of games if a big return is needed.

But Musgrave may have shown the most confidence in Patterson, even if he didn't deserve it. Against the Eagles, Musgrave called for an end-around to Patterson that was supposed to result in him throwing a pass to Greg Jennings, but the veteran receiver wasn't open.

Turns out, it may be a good thing Patterson didn't throw it.

"He missed every one of them in practice last week so we were thinking that is going to be a good omen for game day," Musgrave said.

Patterson said Jennings wasn't open, so he reversed his field, made two defenders miss would-be tackles and picked up a circuitous 12 yards for a first down to extend a touchdown drive.

Musgrave may have been joking about the bad practice attempts being a good game-day omen, but he didn't let the practice results influence his game-day call.

"You've got to take a chance at times," Musgrave said.

That's something that opposing special teams coaches don't seem willing to do with Patterson, even if the Vikings' offensive coordinator is.

SMITH, SANFORD REUNITED

Safety Harrison Smith will be back in the starting lineup this week after playing 61 of the 69 defensive snaps last week in his return from the injured reserve/designated for return list.

The question remaining: who would join him in that starting safety dual? The answer: Jamarca Sanford, who has started 11 of the 14 games this year.

"We feel good that we have a group of safeties that can all win for you," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said.

"What we're going to do is wait until the end of the week and see how guys feel. We don't want to be premature. Harrison was pretty sore this week, you can imagine with the number of snaps he played and the tempo the offense was in. It was tough for him to come in and play that many snaps."

Smith started the first five games of the season before a severe turf toe injury sidelined him for eight weeks. The Vikings anticipated "easing" him back into the lineup last Sunday. He didn't start but played nearly every snap after the Eagles' first series.

"It was because of the type of the ballgame it was – no huddle. Didn't have a chance to catch your breath," Williams said. "That was it more than anything. He said, ‘Coach, I felt like I've been to a college workout.' That means his body was really sore."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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